The Context of Communication

Written by Martin Lucas

How we communicate to one another is complex, there are the verbal and the non-verbal sides. The best estimates state that approximately 70% of human communication is nonverbal; it comes from our body language, our movements, our micro expressions, even our scent plays a part (do as your Mum said, have a good wash!). The remaining 30% is of course the verbal side; what you say, how you say it and of course the tone in which you say it. If that’s not complex enough, then consider how it varies even further based on the person you are communicating to! Let us pause and talk about you (it will help, I promise).

You vs Me

How you perceive something that is communicated will be completely different to how I perceive it. Whilst we literally hear the same thing, we can perceive it differently - why is that?

Well, you are different to me!

How you feel at this precise moment is different to me.

Your mood has many variables, it depends on your day so far (or your, week, month, year, lifetime!).

It depends on so many things; all of them are about you, your mood, your feeling, your thoughts, and other factors affecting your internal happiness, your chemical release, your brain. Last week I was describing what Emotional Intelligence is, covering your feelings, your emotions. It matters even more with respect to how you are communicated to. You are unique, I am unique, maybe you are sensitive to how people say things just like I am or you may be less like me and you care more about what they say while the tone does not matter. It’s complex, right?

There are two sides to every story

What an annoying phrase; there may be two sides but I was totally right <jokes>. Helping you to think about communication based on you - the individual - matters. Then put different generations in the mix and consider how they think differently, and how cultures are different, how language adapts all the time, change is constant! Let’s have thought leader Simon Sinek tell you more about this as he explores the changing dynamic of how Millennials think and thus communicate.

Communication is a challenge; I think we can all agree on this. Add to this a generation changing the context and further changing the way they communicate, it presents a much deeper challenge when it comes to personalisation. One could argue it was already challenging enough; the world is changing so quickly. We have the Tech Big Bang (VR, AR, IoT, AI), the User hangover from 1983 (Microsoft), a 104-year-old model of our working society based on IQ and the constant evolution of language. You can easily see the puzzle and complexity of it; we cannot define what we do not understand. This had me thinking….

Could I prove the context of mass audience communication using social media?

This is what happened:

It got me thinking about the power of advertising. The basis of the best advertising has always been a communication with the subconscious to make us feel and thus act a certain way. I thought, what better way to prove this than to analyse two big competitive brands?

Coca Cola vs Pepsi

I analysed a global audience of over 3,000,000 individuals to see just how much power advertising can have when it is aimed at common interest and not zeroed in on too many specific variables.

The audience was analysed via their Twitter activity and was truly global - no filters were applied to demographics or location, we just wanted to understand how much you can sway a trend. The brands Coca Cola and Pepsi are giant brands, renowned the world over and everyone seems to have an opinion on them. They are also very popular topics of discussion at any given time; on a typical day there are over 1,500 tweets / hour covering these two brands, with Coca Cola having a slight edge in the popularity stakes being responsible for roughly 65% of the traffic.

This sets the scene, but in 2017 the Super Bowl was sponsored by Pepsi. There is obviously a massive cost associated with being the Super Bowl sponsor, but we are not analysing the cost, simply the power of advertising itself.

In the three weeks following the Super Bowl, Pepsi was a more popular topic than Coca Cola, consistently more popular. During the five days immediately following the event itself Pepsi was getting more than three times as much global traffic as Coca Cola. At its highest point, Pepsi was getting an average of over 4,000 posts / hour which is more than five times their usual traffic on an average day.

This example I really, really, really, love and here’s why: consider the numbers we have in play; most companies of the that size are discussing using TV viewing stats to estimate (to guess really) the number of people they reached, but this has literally shown what the point of social media is when it comes to advertising. If I take the math of this one step further:

3,000,000 people analysed

Super Bowl spike was a 5 times improvement for Pepsi

The average number of followers per Twitter user is 208

The sum is: 4,000 an hour x 24 hours x 5 days x 208 potential eyes on per Tweet

= 99,840,000 eyes on.

Now first of all we just got a pay rise for the Pepsi ad people (welcome!). Secondly, it is potential ‘eyes on’ which means if you send a Tweet about Pepsi your 208 followers may see it; after all, a social media message is just a moment in time, it depends who sees it, which is why time of day matters for emails, messaging and social promotions. What I can tell you is that this gives credibility on how to measure social impact and shows the power of communication in today's world, which (per Simon Sinek) is driven more by devices than human-to-human contact.

In this example, what Pepsi did better than Coke was not just winning the sponsorship of a huge event (they both do that); what they did better was execute the social part of the live event. They brought their fans into the experience, made them feel part of it and of course entertained them and made them come forward with ideas and opinions. They made the world react.

It’s all about the context of communication.

What you say

When you say it

Who you say it to

How you say it

Whether you can measure the impact of what you say, like Pepsi can now do :)